Reuben Saunders was born on September 6th, 1808, near Frankfort, Kentucky. Saunders attended Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia and moved to Paducah during the 1840s to start his own practice.
While practicing in Paducah, Dr. Saunders discovered the hypodermic use of morphine-atropine to curb the effects of cholera. He risked his own life to serve those suffering with the disease. Dr. Saunders discovered a cure due to an experiment; rather than injecting one-quarter grain of morphine, he inoculated one-quarter grain of morphine combined with atropine. He immediately witnessed the improvement of his patient and tested the combination on five others – all of whose lives were saved. Dr. Saunders telegraphed the discovery to the Jefferson Medical School and was swept into infamy. He was decorated with accolades from multiple countries and offered positions overseas. However, Dr. Saunders insisted he stay in Kentucky and serve his people. For his discovery, he was honored by the United States Medical Association and the European Medical Association.
Dr. Saunders likewise made the discovery concerning the utilization of fresh air for pneumonia and tuberculosis patients. He became the first president of the Western Kentucky Medical Association. Dr. Saunders passed away on December 13th, 1891, in Paducah, he was buried in the Oak Grove Cemetery. The grandson of Saunders, Irvin S. Cobb (a famous author, humorist, movie actor, and war correspondent), preserved the history of Dr. Saunders, which resulted in three Historical Markers dedicated in his honor: Marker #966, Marker #1057, and Marker #1452.
Marker #1057 was dedicated in 1967 by the Kentucky Historical Society and the Kentucky Department of Highways. It reads: Dr. Reuben Saunders. On this site stood the office of Reuben Saunders, M.D., credited with discovering that hypodermic use of morphine-atropine halted cholera during epidemic here in 1873. Telegraphed prescription to other plague-stricken areas. Accepted by Materia Medica, world over. Honored by American Medical Association and in Europe. See other side. Marker presented by the McCracken County Medical Society.
(Reverse) Dr. Reuben Saunders. Born in Frankfort, Kentucky, September 6, 1808. Outstanding pioneer physician in Western Kentucky for fifty years. Discovered treatment for cholera. First to advocate fresh air for pneumonia and tuberculosis. First President, West Ky. Medical Association. Grandfather of Irvin S. Cobb. Died in Paducah, Dec. 13, 1891. See other side. Marker presented by McCracken County Medical Society.